Something astonishing seems to come over the general population when issues of human rights and Bad People are being discussed. A common point of view seems to be that murderers, terrorists, child molesters etc don't deserve to have their human rights respected, because they clearly weren't considering the human rights of their victims when they carried out whatever atrocious act.
I can't get my head around that... Really, genuinely can't.
Human rights are just that, rights. Not privileges. You don't have to earn them, you can't lose them - no matter what reprehensible act you commit or how truly abhorrent a person you might be. Human rights are absolute and universal. It's the only way you and I, the ordinary, law-abiding folk on the street can be truly protected from oppression and abuse. For what is justice if not based on the premise that everybody receives a fair trial for their wrongdoing, that no person shall ever be tortured or arbitrarily held under arrest?
It's not always a very comfortable way to see the world. I cannot say that if I was locked in a room with the man who abused me when I was a small child that I wouldn't want to inflict some terrible harm on him as retribution for the things he did to me. I can't promise that I don't feel he deserves some manner of pain inflicting on him in return for being a really vile person. However, it is of immense comfort to me to know that the law exists to protect me from my own impulses, to prevent me from sinking to the low levels of a person who would willingly inflict harm on any other human being.
Perhaps I put too much stock in the comments I see on social networking sites, or in the 'readers comments' sections of online papers like the Daily Fail or the Torygraph, but the pitchfork-wielding, mob mentality of many people really saddens me. I spent a short time at university studying human rights as an academic subject, and the accounts of torture (amongst other human rights infringements) that I read were utterly harrowing - and the scariest part was that this isn't a rare occurrence. Neither is slavery, mass murder, censorship, or execution. It happens the world over, and comparatively little is being done in the public eye to stop it. Of course there are wonderful organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Liberty, Survival International to name but a few - but unless you're actively involved with these groups or deliberately pursue news on what they're doing to protect vulnerable people it's actually not easy to find out just how widespread human rights abuses really, truly are.
I will come back to this topic again and elaborate on more specific cases which have grabbed my attention. For now I just wanted to write down and organise my feelings on the general matter.